Guest Expert: Eileen Dimond: Are Your Patient Navigator Colleagues Participating In Clinical Trials Accrual? It Might Be Time To Consider A New Paradigm…
This week, we are fortunate to have some thoughts from one of our clinical trials experts from the Division of Cancer Prevention, Eileen Dimond, MS, RN. Eileen is currently the NCI clinical trial lead for the National Cancer Institute Community Cancer Centers Program (NCCCP), working closely with the clinical trials sites in that network. With her prior hands-on research nurse experience, her expertise in patient communication and education and her passion for clinical trials, she has made some keen observations that you very well may be able to immediately apply to your recruitment practice. Welcome, Eileen!
Community Cancer Centers provide varying degrees of clinical trial (CT) access and expertise. Within the NCI Community Cancer Centers Program (NCCCP) that I work closely with, sites’ activities range from building infrastructure and capacity to broaden their program’s scope and reach to full implementation of phase I trials. The Program’s goals have included expanding access to quality cancer care and research within the community with a strong emphasis on disparities and underrepresented populations. Part of this effort has also included expanding patient navigation programs within the community sites. These two entities, navigation and CT have traditionally been independent efforts; navigators navigate the overall system and the CT team deals with trials and accrual. But an interesting thing is occurring at these sites. The research team and patient navigators are collaborating and not only on a surface level but really working together to try and improve accrual. How?
Well, some navigators are simply supportive of the research process and attend tumor conferences. Others are educating patients by sharing the NCI materials about clinical trials when patients enter a system and letting them know what trials are and that they are offered at their institution. The clinical research nurses are attending navigator staff meetings and reviewing the protocols to improve the navigators’ understanding and comfort with the trials. Disease-specific navigators, like those who work with head and neck cancer patients, are referring their patients to symptom management/cancer control trials because of their complex needs. And in some cases the navigators are actually using a checklist to screen patients for prostate prevention trials.
The process is not homogeneous. Sites sit somewhere on a continuum from simply taking baby steps by inviting the patient navigators to attend multidisciplinary conferences where clinical trial eligibility and trials are discussed, to full integration into the team where navigators are expanding their role as described above. Where is your site at? Is there potential here for a collaboration that truly elevates the culture of clinical trials at your site and just may benefit both teams and ultimately our patients?